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University of Minnesota Tom Moran. Rethinking Emergency Power Sources. Generator Ownership. August of 2009 “Ownership” of Generators Changed Within University From Districts to Electric Utilities Treat Generators as a Utility Asset Information: 127 generators

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University of Minnesota

Tom Moran

Rethinking Emergency Power Sources

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Generator Ownership

  • August of 2009 “Ownership” of Generators Changed Within University

    • From Districts to Electric Utilities

    • Treat Generators as a Utility

  • Asset Information:

    • 127 generators

    • 42.7 Meg Total Nameplate Generation

    • 22 Underground Tanks

    • 56 Natural Gas

    • 71 Diesel

  • Transition Plan

    • Verify State of Installed Asset

      • Create a written condition assessment

    • Correct Problems Found

    • Business as usual

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Condition Assessment Reports


This generator is an ONAN 55 kW, 208/120V natural gas unit located in room S15. It serves panel for emergency distribution to building systems via a single transfer switch located in the generator room. Past peak load observed during testing is 19.85 kW. This generator was installed in 1924.


The condition assessment test of this generator was conducted on 8/3/09. The unit was started via the transfer switch test button. The first attempt to start the generator failed. On the second attempt, the engine cranked excessively before it started, automatically transferred load after 28 seconds and ran. This is considered a failure as emergency power is required by code to be available within 10 seconds. This excessive start time was found to be due to a gas flow problem. The battery float voltage is low. There is a hole in the exterior wall next to the generator that has been filled with rags to keep out the elements. Where the exhaust system interfaces with the exterior wall, a gap in the exhaust insulation has been filled with a rag. This rag is in direct contact with the exhaust system metal. Battery float voltage is low. During the test, minor oil leaks were observed. During the October test it was discovered the frost plug heater is not working. Records indicate that the generator has a history of trouble starting.


Fix oil leaks. Find cause of gas flow restriction and remedy. Install load bank point. Adjust charger settings. Repair frost plug heater. Patch hole in wall. Repair hole in exhaust system insulation. Adjust charger settings.

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Condition Assessment Results

  • Pass/Fail: Does it Start/Transfer/Carry Load According to Requirements?

    • 38% Failed

  • Problems Found

    • Over 600 Corrective Actions

  • Fuel Sampling

    • Tested 22 Underground Tanks

    • One passed

      • Most problems were oxidation or water in fuel

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Multiple Generating Plants

Overhead 115kV to

Underground 15kV via

Multiple Subs

U-Owned Switch Stations

Underground Parallel

To Building

U of MN Typical Electrical Building Feeds

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Emergency Source ComparisonWhat if 2nd Source Used?

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Normal Power


Legally Required


General Building Loads


Fire Fighting and Rescue


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Current Status

  • Code Office Has Agreed That 2nd Utility Source is Acceptable

  • Surveying Buildings to Determine Load Types

  • Major Remodeling Incorporating 15kV ATS.

  • Many Possible Schemes Depending on Building Electrical System Design

  • Looking at Removing Some Generators

  • Looking at Converting Others to Standby